The amount of stress built up in preparing, experiencing, and recovering from a natural disaster can be a difficult feat to overcome.
Hurricane Sandy has left thousands of Americans in its path at a loss; a loss of power, a home, or a loved one. Dealing with the anxiety left behind can be overwhelming, but you are not alone. Mental health experts believe that this type of emotional distress is common and even healthy.
Richard Heaps, a clinical psychologist and professor at Brigham Young University, believes the grief experienced after a disaster is a normal emotional behavior.
“It’s OK to mourn losses,” Heaps said. “It’s not an abnormal reaction, but healthy and appropriate.”
Heaps and his colleague Melissa Bryner, the director of Terrorism and Disaster Programs at the UCLA/Drake University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress provide steps on managing stress after a disaster.
1. Stay connected to others-Heaps and Bryner believe that it is best to avoid isolating yourself by staying connected to other people. When dealing with such strong emotions, they recommend finding comfort in relationships rather than withdrawing. When worrying about family members and friends, they advise that you maintain consistent contact to feel assured that they are okay. Regular contact can be as convenient as sending a text message or using social media.
2. Operate self-care and get back to a routine-Bryner strongly recommends taking the time to rest before jumping back into a hectic work schedule. They believe overworking can often suppress and mask the emotional stress. This involves eating well and getting enough sleep. Heaps and Bryner also suggest getting back into old routines that can help you move forward.